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As I mentioned a little while ago, in our ABC News Shufflle Podcast interview, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie didn’t quite care for Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken’s comment that "it looks like we’re on track to win. … Now, there’s more to do before it’s over — there are still some Minnesotans whose voices haven’t been heard yet because their absentee ballots were improperly rejected. But when those votes are counted and the recount is complete, I believe we will have won this election.”
Said Ritchie, after I read him Franken’s statement and asked him if it was premature, "No human being can predict the future or what’s going to happen with the one thousand three hundred some still unopened wrongly rejected absentee ballots so I would say yes, it’s premature but from the first night our office has said clearly there is no current person ahead or behind, there is no way to predict who will win or lose, only when the final ballot is done can you say this."
"But that hasn’t stopped the campaigns from making claims for fundraising and other purposes," Ritchie said. "So this claim is just another claim by the lawyers of the candidates and by the candidates themselves that cannot be substantiated, cannot be backed up by any facts. So it is premature and, you know, I’ve not been happy that the campaigns have continued to make these claims but there is really nothing I can do about it."
(We should point out that Coleman has prematurely declared victory a number of times as well. The morning after election night, after the unofficial canvass of counties, and after a canvassing board ruling.)
Ritchie and I discussed a number of issues relevant to the recount. Some items of note:
I read Mr. Ritchie part of an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that described him as having been "endorsed by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — Acorn — a group under investigation in several states for suspected voter registration chicanery," and noting that Ritchie’s "election campaign in 2006 was funded in part by something called ‘The Secretary of State Project.’ This latter group, founded by MoveOn.org’s former grass-roots director, exists solely to install far-left candidates as secretaries of state in swing states."
What did Ritchie — who talked a lot about the State Canvassing Board being non-partisan — think of such a description?
"I haven’t seen it," he said, "I never respond to personal attacks or that kind of, you know, shenanigans in newspapers like that … I think people are very proud of the way we do elections in Minnesota and that pride and that trust is reflected in the fact that we are always number 1 voting in the nation and we’re 5 percentage points above the state that is number 2. People trust our elections in Minnesota because they’re run on a fair and non partisan basis and because they trust that they turn out and vote."
Of a recent Miami Herald editorial that assured Floridians that Minnesota recount compared similarly with the Sunshine state’s 2000 debacle, Ritchie was concise: Florida, he said, "didn’t do a recount so there’s really no discussion here. Florida aborted the recount they didn’t do a recount. That’s a disaster for Floridians and too bad for the nation ’cause it created such a bad impression of local election and state election officials. Florida did not do a recount and so there’s really nothing to compare to our system."
Having written a book about the Florida recount, I recalled how local officials suffered through all sorts of personal attacks during that state’s recount.
How is Ritchie holding up?
"The thing that’s been unfortunate has been the kind of abuse that staff and especially local election officials have had to suffer," he said. "And when some editorial in, say, a national newspaper that comes out and makes a partisan kind of attack or makes a claim then we might get up to thousand emails from people all over the country or they generate death threats which of course are alarming to everybody so folks here have just had to put the blinders on to the outside world, the death threats, the attacking partisan editorials and just say, ‘Look, the people of Minnesota are who we serve, they have had a close election, we often have a close elections because we’ve got six political parties, we are gonna find out how did the people of Minnesota voted on Nov. 4 and we’re gonna do that out in front of everybody so that everybody — maybe they’re gonna be disappointed but they’re gonna say, "Yeah, I am disappointed but that’s how we as a state voted."’
Ritchie said that "people are tired, this week has been particularly hard because everyone’s having to work through holidays and we had some big holidays making things complicated. I am personally very proud and pleased as to how everyone has been able to hold up and to ignore the attacks."
You can listen to the full podcast on iTunes or HERE.
– Jake Tapper and Huma Khan